Tag Archives: tiny house

“The house that never ends…”

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That is how I’d been referring to Little Yellow the last few months. Saying so sounds a bit more negative than I intend it to, but that was honestly how it felt. In fact, it felt almost impossible that the amount of work I contributed so very often seemed to take so very long and make so very little difference.

I remember starting last September. I remember looking at the lumber on the trailer and feeling totally out of my ball park. I remember thinking that the feeling would go away soon and I’d promptly skip out the door with hammer swinging conviction to work on my house every day. Well that thought was a good few miles off.

First, I certainly wasn’t able to work on it every day and, at least when I was alone, never started before 3:00 pm. Like, never. Probably not even once. Second, any attempted skipping in conjunction with the swinging of heavy, semi-hazardous metal objects was not to be in my future with a good ending.

But seriously; without fail, I would have that same overwhelming feeling at least once every single day for the entire build. Up to the last week, even. Like there was too much. There was just too much and I couldn’t do it. It’s too hard. It’ll never get done. How on earth will I possibly figure X out?

And it’s such a strong feeling. You’d think, seeing as I got it every jolly day, I’d figure out that as soon as I shut that part of myself the hell up, I’d almost always manage to get something concrete done. But that’s how it gets you. It has some terribly tricksy little fiendish way of convincing you that this is a different feeling than you’ve had before. All the other previous feelings of inadequacy were just tests, and this is the one that’ll get you. I can be pretty stupid for being relatively smart.

I wanted to talk about this because I’d like to make sure that those of you who have ever felt this way while building (or otherwise creating something that far surpasses your comfort level) know that you are not alone. You can do it, and it’s going to be great. Mentally pushing through can sometimes be your biggest obstacle, I’m pretty sure it was for me.

A little of the happy fuzzies before I go to bed in my lovely loft. My house is like something big that you really love compacted into something you can hold in your hand. Kind of like a snowglobe instead of Alaska. It is bright and warm and full of time, thoughts and cat hair. It is the very best thing I have ever had for keeps πŸ˜€

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Counters and mortise locks and dish racks and coat racks and porch posts and…

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Oh my. Gad zooks I’ve been a while! Things are doing very well, and I’m at the point when I can almost say my house is done πŸ™‚ It’s not, exactly, but it’s so darn close that most people probably wouldn’t know to look at it. Ideally, I would delve into each section of progress in individual posts, but life is running away with me so I hope this picture laden compilation will do.

Firstly, a bit on the kitchen. The counter is attached (with little, 4 screw angle irons), I’ve gotten all the shelves in, the sink installed and the stove set up nice on top. It’s a denatured alcohol version by Origo where one pours said fuel directly into the unit, and since it doesn’t really need to get cut into my counters to work, I decided that it was fine just as it is. I’m quite please with it actually, because now I can put it elsewhere if I need more counterspace, then bring it back again when I don’t. I could also use it outside or take it camping, or just keep it in my car so I could cook wherever I go πŸ˜€ Less likely, but it is good to have options…

The finishing of Flemming’s priceless counters was an annoying puzzlement that spanned many attempts, reattempts and re-reattempts plus that ‘this is never going to work’ feeling that can do a number on one’s perseverance. But work it did, by cracky, after much ado. Essentially, this particular wood took very poorly to water. By poorly, I mean that each time any amount of water got left on the surface for any amount of time, the grain would raise and the wood would turn white, leaving an entirely displeasing trail of bumpy ugliness.

I’m sure this all could have been quickly solved by a layer or however-many of polyurethane-type counter finish, but that would have been too easy. I hate that stuff, probably for no good reason, but I’m an advocate for easily re-doable finishes and was dead set on oiling it. Boy howdy did I oil that thing. I put over 3 pints of oil on it (butcher’s block oil, i.e. mineral oil) thinking that the waterproofness would improve when it was saturated. I was wrong of course, and no amount of oil, different oil, beeswax or anything I thought of could keep this grain from raising.

With the advice of a few clever neighbours and a slow return of some good sense on my part, I finally stopped trying to keep the grain from raising and and started trying to get it to raise. I covered the whole thing in water. I literally poured cups onto it for several days until every little piddly section was grain-raised to the max. After it dried, I sanded everything down and there you go! Simple as that. Grain raising white spots of doom? No longer an issue.Β  I then oiled it again and now my counter is ready for anything. Well, at least water.

My cats live with me in and out of Little Yellow now, and they are the most delightfully entertaining, boot chewing, and lap warming little jumping beans. They are all curled up innocent-like on my knees right now, purring their tiny hearts out.

I spent the last 2 weeks scouting somewhere to put my house up by San Francisco. I haven’t got anything definite yet, but I have a few thoughts for the short term, and I plan to move by this time next month. It’s terribly exciting. It’s also terribly terrifying, but that’s the path I chose, and if my life didn’t have a reasonable balance of the two, I doubt I’d be very happy πŸ˜€

Of plumbing and leaks…

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That’s right, leaks. The other day I went to test the water; connect the hose to the house, turn the bugger on, and wait for the terribly exciting sound of rushing water through the walls. Terribly exciting, that is, until you start having a look at the shut off valves that are undeniably weeping with the drip of death. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but when 5 out of 6 possible connections were leaving little puddles at the bottoms of my cabinets, my peace of mind went from la di da, to house leaking panic.

My nieghbour was equally stumped. Having put everything in with care (plus teflon tape), and never having seen so many leaks at one time, I began to consider possible plumbing curses that Little Yellow may have contracted. Not that I’ve made a point of pissing off any plumbers, but one has to wonder.

I felt really bad that things weren’t going according to plan and, seeing as it is my house, decided I ought to know how to fix this sort of stuff…so I picked me up a wrench and got to it. I flooded the underside of my cabinet taking the hose off, I smacked myself full in the face with the aforementioned wrench, and had a one sided screaming match with plumbing in general, but I fixed those %*@& leaks. You can just call me Ella the plumber πŸ˜€ (best not).

The dripping was only occurring at threaded connections leading up to the shut off valves, so I took them apart and put on new brass connecty bits as the old ones got totally buggered in the act of their removal. This time I used tape and pipe thread compound. Overkill, you say? It aint leaking, I don’t care.

I’m sorry to have been terrible at putting new posts up as of late. Things are going beautifully and Little Yellow is getting really close, but once I fall behind I find it hard to get up to date with so much missed information. It doesn’t help that my camera (his name is Harold. I don’t know why) has suffered a terrible melted chocolate incident that seems to have adversely effected his workings. He still takes pictures, though you can’t see what you’re taking pictures of, so I’ve also missed photographing some processes that ought to have been documented.

In any case, I aim to put up some summaries in the next few days. My sink, shower, door lock and cabinetry are all in, and my awesome futon bed has arrived! Oh, and I’ve stumbed upon two wee kittens that I don’t think I can live without πŸ˜€ The cat at the barn had 7 and most are on their way to being feral if they don’t get homes. It’ll be a little while before I take them (in the meantime I visit them every day) then in I go, head first to 2 cat responsibility. I’m excited!

Sink holes and light fixtures…

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Gathering the nerve to cut into Flemming’s irreplaceable counter tops took a lot of thought. A lot of thought, a lot of measuring, and a lot of ‘you can do this’ talks with myself. But all went well, and I also drilled holes for the faucet behind. Somehow everything just barely fit in the tight space.

The faucet was presumably designed for a thinner counter, so I had to chisel down about 3/4″ between the knobs on the underside to make it work. I know the router would have been faster, but I didn’t want to risk it going all skully wompus on me and, in memory of Flemming’s approval of hand tools, I spent the time and did it the old fashioned way.

I ended up with a lovely stainless steel sink (16″ outer rim to rim) from Opella. The plan to use an old brass jelly pot fell by the wayside as it turned out to be just a little too small, so I bit the bullet and bought a proper one. Probably for the best though, because it came with a seriously nifty cutout template.

I’ve been slowly compiling my light fixtures for the last few months (the wonders of ebay), and it’s so exciting to see them all up! I have 6 lights on the inside; 1 from the ceiling, 1 over the window seat, 1 in the kitchen, 1 for the pink room, 1 for the bathroom, and 1 in my sleeping loft. I found the cheapest source of well made, solid brass fixtures (I adore brass) to be little, clear glass lantern types intended to be used outdoors. It cost $54 for all 4, and they make me think of fairies πŸ˜€

They are meant to be turned on and off by switch, but since I only have switches for the ceiling and window seat lights, my neighbour put in little pull chains through a hole drilled in the back and they now operate brilliantly at the source.

The main ceiling light/chandelier from hell was the hard one. The amount of space available at the ceiling peak is pretty narrow, and it was clear upon looking there was no chance the 5″ wide ceiling connect-y bit that is supposed to cover the workings was going to cut the mustard. The solution came in some kind of copper cup thing from the plumbing section at Home Depot that happens to match the fixture perfectly. My awesome neighbour rigged it so that it’s securely attached to the ridge beam and contains all the crazy wiring up there.

It certainly wasn’t easy though. I had idealistic plans of removing it every time the house goes down the road, but I can assure you that after the time and trouble that little shit gave us, I’ll just be taking out the light bulbs and wishing it luck. Guess I could bubble wrap it or something.

What a beautiful change to have all the lights up! It looks more and more like the space I want to live in with every day. And really, you pull a cord or flip a switch and the things just turn on. I like to think it’s magic πŸ˜€

Curtains up…

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And the window seat bench has been stuffed and upholstered! My wonderful sister came up with her wonderful sewing machine and slaved wonderfully away for hours on end, several days in a row to get them done. I was the dedicated fabric cutter and seam ironer, but she basically made everything and I’m so grateful.

We stuffed the window seat bench cushion with extra sheep wool insulation I got back in September from Oregon Shepherd, and let me tell you, that stuff makes for a really wonderful thing to sit on. I did put a 1″ high density foam pad on the bottom just to keep it rigid and the combination has totally worked. It got a relatively thick canvas casing first (which we spent AGES stuffing) and then another of the good upholstery fabric to finish it off. I’ve brought back out some pillows from the big house, and it’s super cozy now πŸ˜€

And then come the curtains…Little Yellow has 10 windows. Each got a curtain for each side, and all but the bump out windows also got two sides of sheer fabric, which means that there were 34 curtains on the list. 30 freakin’ 4 of ’em, and my sister made them and my bench covers in two days. Amazing? She is.

We made the front curtain rods out of copper pipe (3/4″ for the big windows and 1/2″ for all the others) and round pieces of 1/2″ craft wood for the sheers behind. Leftover moulding with drilled notches is holding the rods up. I say leftover moulding as though I merely bought too much, but this moulding has been thwarting the heck out of me as I try to make my baseboards. I keep cutting the angles wrong, leaving me with sad little sections of unloved, unreturnable, angle-challenged wood.

I’m sure it’s happy to have gotten used, but it was disagreeable stuff to drill into, and the process involved a vice, more patience that I had at the time and plenty of ‘test pieces’ that shattered and flew in every direction. Just as well I had lots of leftovers, eh?

But now I have curtains! All of them, and they are so very, very nice πŸ˜€ They instantly make Little Yellow so much more homey!

Cabinets framed…

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Perhaps nothing has caused more procrastination than my kitchen cabinets, and considering just how much procrastination I am capable of, this is really saying something. For a while my dad thought it’d be better to find someone else to make them, but Little Yellow is quite in need of her cabinets, so we have faced our fears and plowed ahead.

I bought a bunch of 1 x 3 pine to build the frame and we mostly based it on the cabinets in my parent’s house, since they are so conveniently there. This left us ripping the horizontal sections to 2″ and leaving the vertical ones as they were at just under 2 1/2″ I believe.

Have you heard of a Kreg jig? I hadn’t, but holy grandmother Moses is it a spiffy thing. My wonderful neighbor lent us his set-up and (having previously attempted dowling and biscuit joining) it was such a quick and excellent way to stick wood together that I was almost giddy during the framing stage. I think I’d like to keep this stuff on my bedside table, just for those springy, wood joining emergencies.

It is essentially a system that allows you to drill into wood at an exact angle, so by then screwing their fancy square headed screws in with a little Titebond III (great glue, strong as all heck), you effectively secure two sections. It worked really well for us and we had the frame up in no time. Before attaching it, we had to build a floor on the toe kick, make both sides with 1 x 6 tongue and groove, and stick a 2 x 2 support runner against the wall to hold the weight of the counters.

Being suckers for instant gratification, we put Flemming’s counters on as soon as we got the frame up, and what a sight. They are just breathtaking. I honestly believe they make the whole house.

Since then, my dad has started making the cabinet drawers and I’m on doors. By spectacularly fantastic luck, the 1/4″ wall paneling fits like a freakin’ dream into the groove of 1 x 6 T&G, so all I’ve had to do is rip the 1 x 6 down a little, chop saw 45 degree angles on it, stick some panels in the middle and Bob is most certainly your uncle.

I’ve been biscuit joining/ gluing them together with pretty good success, and I have to say I’m darn proud of my wee doors πŸ˜€ There are 4 on the main cabinets (one big under the sink, two smaller beside it, and one smaller still at the L corner) and 2 on the little linen closet cabinet thing I built in the space between my two tall shelves.

I decided it would be a good idea to have another closed off space for various, not necessarily kitchen related storage, so I tested out what my dad and I did for the big cabinet framing and made my own little one. I used cedar for the shelf, as I hear it’s good for such things that hold fabrics, but I’m not sure what I’ll do for the counter. Nothing can really compare to the master carpentry of Flemming’s, so I’ll likely end up doing something pretty plain.

I’m so happy to have the semblance of a kitchen!!! I simply can’t wait til it’s functioning. On the subject of kitchens, apparently I can navigate jig, miter and table saws, but those paring knives still pose a viable threat. Twice I’ve cut myself with the damned thing in the last week, twice.

I’ll put up clearer pictures of the counters soon πŸ˜€

Fabric bought…

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I guess this will be a bit of a girly post, so those who are already suspicious of the title might want to flee before you get too far in…but oh my god fabric!!!! Don’t worry, I’ll make it short. On Tuesday, my sister and I went to downtown LA’s semi seedy fabric district and spent hours and hours searching and weighing options like children in a candy store. A really big block of candy stores with beautifully inexpensive linen πŸ˜€Β After much deliberation, comparing and wandering, we got everything to make all my curtains and upholster the window seat bench!

I’m going to make split curtains for each window so that they’ll tie at the sides when not in use, and have another rod for a lighter material (the white stuff) behind to provide a thin covering if I don’t want to block as much sunshine. I say ‘I’ am going to make them, but really my sister gets the credit. I’m pretty decent at hand sewing, but it would take forever to do them all that way and her skills with the sewing machine trump mine by a lot.

Apparently I ‘break’ her machine every time I try to use it. Confounded piece of…Anyway πŸ˜€ It’s actually really nice to have help when that someone is far more efficient than I could be.

Can’t wait to get these going!